Managing Woodland

Speaker: Chris Westcott
Date: 27th March
Year: 2019

Clanfield Bluebell Wood; photo by Bill and Kay Langley

Chris Westcott told us she manages the Bluebell Wood site in Clanfield with her husband and son.  Bluebell Wood is the local name for Blagden and Lowtons Copses and stems from the display of bluebells in the spring.

The woodland covers some 56 acres (22ha) and is privately owned although there is public access over most of the woodland. Also known as Three Copse Woodland from three woodland copses which provide the majority of the materials used in the woodland products made by  Chris and other members of The Hampshire Coppicing Craftsman’s Group (HCCG).

Her talk covered a very wide range of topics including what makes a woodland, sustainable management of habitats, history of the wild wood, archaeology and ecology for example.  Sustainable woodland management needs a management plan approved by the Forestry Commission and Forest Stewardship Council approval, and a Certificate!

Various models of what a woodland might be described as. Tansley in 1939 and Vera in 2000 had different views, something between total tree cover and some clearings made by herbivores. But not what is known as a “High Forest”. The Royal Forests such as The New Forest in Hampshire were set aside for Royal Hunting.

Historically there was some land clearing in Neolithic times but the woodland was re-colonised after the black death. It was managed for products, coppicing or pollarding on timber. Management methods include:

(A) Plantation forestry (straight lines) started after WW1 when the Forestry Commission planted millions of conifers, now we are back to a more natural look, though no woodland is entirely natural.

(B) Wood pasture is a special habitat of timber and grazing.

(C) High forest has big old trees for industrial purposes. The Weald is the most heavily wooded where charcoal was made for iron smelting.

Chris then went on to talk about the ecology of woodlands, the flora and fauna, canopy and field layers and soil. Various tree species present and their uses, Ash, oak, hazel, beech, field maple, (an ancient woodland marker), crab, juniper, spindle and dogwood.

Other ancient woodland markers (Ancient Woodland Vascular Plants {AWVPs}) include wood anemones and bluebells (if they are in a field it implies it was once woodland).  45 + AWVPs have been counted in the Bluebell Wood and 170 other plant species.

Different habitats were described ie, plantation area, coppiced, sunken lane and open areas.  These support different species, ferns and orchids for example and various mammals including deer, badgers, foxes, voles, birds, bats, butterflies, bees and other insects and reptiles. They all need their specific requirements considered.

Woodland structure e.g field systems, barrows and wood banks must also be recognized and managed. Maps are helpful to find Parish Boundaries and rotation areas. Assorts  are areas cut into the wood to make more field for cultivation and can be discovered.

Chris finished off her very informative and interesting talk by mentioning other management issues, like fly tipping, motor bikes, dogs out of control and general misuse of the countryside. Other threats include pests and diseases (ash dieback), housing projects and unintended consequences of legislation.

Unmanaged woodland is a problem, managed woodland – products need to be sold.  Rural and countryside workers are often drawn from ethnic minorities and Chris said it is more a way of life than a job.  Their future is uncertain.

There were many interested members asking questions which Chris was pleased to answer.

Wesnet Services Ltd

Woodland & Habitat management specialists as well as Supplier of quality local firewood and charcoal within Hampshire and West Sussex, also other talks to special interest groups on a range of subjects.

These include:

  • Management of ancient woodland
  • Sustainable woodland management
  • Charcoal burning
  • Pole lathe turning (practical demonstration/talk)



Three Copse Woodland Products “The home of Sustainable Woodland Products”

high-quality products that are environmentally friendly and help sustain the management and restoration of our own ancient woodland.


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